Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 236, Issue 5, pp 1537–1544 | Cite as

The power law as behavioral illusion: reappraising the reappraisals

  • Richard S. Marken
  • Dennis M. Shaffer
Letter to the Editor


Marken and Shaffer (Exp Brain Res 235:1835–1842, 2017) have argued that the power law of movement, which is generally thought to reflect the mechanisms that produce movement, is actually an example of what Powers (Psychol Rev 85:417–435, 1978) dubbed a behavioral illusion, where an observed relationship between variables is seen as revealing something about the mechanisms that produce a behavior when, in fact, it does not. Zago et al. (Exp Brain Res., 2017) and Taylor (Exp Brain Res,, 2018) have “reappraised” this argument, claiming that it is based on logical, mathematical, statistical and theoretical errors. In the present paper we answer these claims and show that the power law of movement is, indeed, an example of a behavioral illusion. However, we also explain how this apparently negative finding can point the study of movement in a new and more productive direction, with research aimed at understanding movement in terms of its purposes rather than its causes.


Power law of movement Cause–effect model Control model Behavioral illusion Controlled variables 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyAntioch UniversityLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyOhio State University MansfieldMansfieldUSA

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